What makes a great NFL defense?

In the last episode of the Titans Time podcast, I explained what made the difference between a good defense and a great defense. Essentially, it comes down to whether or not the defense can contain star players to keep the game under control. At times last season, the Titans struggled containing players. Rather than a whole team beating the Titans defense, one player would consistently gash the defense.

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Star players the Tennessee Titans struggled to contain in 2019.

There were 5 players the Titans let have great games in 2019. In 3 of the scenarios the Titans were still able to win the game. Did I mention that two were in the same game? Yeah, the Titans won that one.

Christian_McCaffrey_with_fan,_Jan_2019
Christian McCaffrey with a fan.

Christian McCaffrey – Week 9 Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey torched the Tennessee Titans in week 9 of last season. The Titans had just come off of two huge wins versus the now LA Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After starting the season 2-4, the Titans had finally picked up some momentum.

That didn’t last long once McCaffrey took the field. About halfway through the second quarter McCaffrey scored his first touchdown on a seven yard pass from Kyle Allen. After that, Christian McCaffrey didn’t score again until the second half when he added both a 1-yard and 58-yard rushing touchdown.

McCaffrey finished the game with 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also added 20 receiving yards and a touchdown as the Carolina Panthers ended the Titans win streak with a score of 30-20.

This is a prime example of a star player taking over a game and willing his team to victory. The Titans defense had no answer for Christian McCaffrey, and even with a backup QB the Panthers were able to win the game. McCaffrey scored as many touchdowns in the game as the Titans whole offense.

Austin Ekeler – Week 7 Los Angeles Chargers

Rewind two weeks and the Tennessee Titans were hosting a home game versus the Los Angeles Chargers. The story of this game was the amazing goal line stand by the Titans defense. It was truly a great moment in Titans history. It was crucial to keeping this game from being just another game where a player almost single handedly won a game.

Had Austin Ekeler scored on the first play, it would have been a 16 yard touchdown and would have made it two receiving touchdowns on the day for Ekeler. It would have sealed the game for the Chargers at 27-23, but fortunately it didn’t and the Titans won 23-20.

Ekeler finished the game with 7 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. It’s not the most staggering stat line, but without Ekeler the Chargers wouldn’t have even been in a situation to win the game.

Mike Evans
Mike Evans Buccaneers at Redskins 11/16/14“File:Mike Evans face shot vs Washington Redskins November 16 2014.jpg” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mike Evans – Week 8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One week after the victory against the Chargers, the Titans were able to prevail again despite an impressive performance from Mike Evans.

The Tennessee Titans won the game 27-23, but Mike Evans scored 2 touchdowns and finished the game with 198 receiving yards on 11 catches. Both touchdown catches were less than 10 yards, but Evans racked up on yardage on other catches. He had two catches that were for 40+ yards.

The Titans, like many other NFL teams, struggled to cover Mike Evans. Evans only played 13 games last season, but still finished with over 1,100 yards on the year. He has yet to have a season with under 1,000 yards, so the Titans shouldn’t feel too bad about not being able to keep him under wraps.

The key is keeping players in check enough to still get the win, and the Titans were able to do that by keeping the ball away from the Buccaneers as much as possible. Especially in the 4th quarter, when the Bucs had two three and outs offensively.

Kansas City Chiefs - Star players Titans
Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill – Week 10 Kansas City Chiefs

This makes 4 straight weeks that the Tennessee Titans allowed players to have great fantasy football weeks. The crazy thing is, the Titans won 3 of the 4 games.

Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill went absolutely ballistic in week 10 versus the Tennessee Titans. Mahomes threw for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns while Hill had 157 yards and caught a touchdown. This still wasn’t enough to get the win against the Tennessee Titans.

At this point in the season, the Titans just couldn’t seem to find a way to lose, except against the Panthers. We won’t talk about that one. Between the goal line stand and the blocked field goal against the Chiefs, the Titans won a few very exciting games during the 2019 season.

The Titans beat the Chiefs 35-32 despite Mahomes insane performance.

The Final Verdict

The Tennessee Titans weren’t able to contain these star players, but somehow they were still able to find a way to win the game. Maybe that’s what makes the Titans a great team as a whole, rather than just the defense.

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About The Author Tanner Staggs

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